Fifty Stems

The Fifty Stems series is process art, in which the Ontario October becomes more than merely scattered, fallen detritus on the forest floor. These leaf stems have been arranged, photographed, and colourized, thus undergoing a transformation from the organic to the conceptual. Whereas I have elsewhere communicated the sublime in terms of sensory overload, with reference to C.S. Lewis’ characterization of heaven as a neverending spiral, or as irredescent colours in un-fallen worlds, here there is also an element of ‘zen’ present. It doesn’t have the same effect as a Rothko colour field, but it leans in that direction. It seems to me that a tension exists between kinds of spirituality: this minimalist aesthetic jives with eastern ideology, whereas my layered, laboured, works are more in line with the complexity of the Christian narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and glory. This general tension is specifically manifest in various conceptions of God. We don’t have the capacity to understand God as he is, so we describe Him in negative terms. He is immutable, incomprehensible, immortal, and so on. It leaves you with an image that abounds with negative space: very zen indeed. But when we think of our Saviour as Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father Prince of Peace… then we begin to stand in awe of the things we cannot depict. Still, I enjoy these calm, serene, and almost formal moments with leaves and colours. They may not be explicity Christian. But they do speak to me, almost as if I myself was once a dead leaf on the ground, waiting only to be picked up by God and used as his handiwork.

1 thought on “Fifty Stems

  1. described in negative terms… and so on: but the Belgic Confession continues with several positive terms after the ones you quated… There is something positive as well, something overwhelmingly positive: almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good…
    Your challenge remains, though: how do you depict this? He had a reason to state in the second commandment “You shall not make for yourself a graven image…”
    See also LD 35:97

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